Wall Street South
Post-pandemic Palm Beach feels increasingly like a seaside Manhattan. Just add palm trees and pastels.
Palm Beach might conjure images of Slim Aarons’ iconic photography, Lily Pulitzer frocks, or exquisite mansions. And while that’s all accurate, today’s Palm Beach, with its Old Florida tradition, elegance, and stately palm trees, now also co-exists with a lot of wealthy Manhattanites.
Palm Beach County led Southeast Florida’s pandemic-relo hotlist, counting 41.5% new moves from New Yorkers alone in 2020—well ahead of second-place Miami. They brought their wealth with them. Investment banks and private equity firms like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone opened local offices. By 2022, the posh enclave was home to at least 34 billionaires per the Forbes 400, putting it ahead of Los Angeles.
Where billionaires go, art galleries follow, and now Pace, Acquavella, and Paula Cooper all have their Palm Beach satellites—because, “what dealer wouldn’t want to be where the collectors are?” Adam Sheffer, a vice president at Pace Gallery said. Sotheby’s and Christie’s also opened pop-up auction showrooms. They were supposed to be temporary, for the duration of the pandemic. Instead, many have dug in, turning Palm Beach into a micro-but-powerful art hub for up to six months a year.
To wit: Christie’s boldly kicked off the first leg of its André Leon Talley auction preview at its Worth Avenue gallery last month before shipping it off to Paris, then New York (where it opens today). And Lehmann Maupin, now in its third consecutive year, recently unveiled a new-for-2023 seasonal address at Royal Poinciana Plaza, with a roster of exhibits through May.
Eateries with Manhattan roots also keep cropping up—because New Yorkers want what they want, and sometimes what they want is their poulet cajun from Le Bilboquet. No wonder the Upper East Side stalwart’s Palm Beach outpost became one of the toughest local reservations to snag after it opened in 2021.
Coveted Midtown Greek eatery Estiatorio Milos now plans to open its second Florida location (after Miami) at One Flagler sometime this year, where it will serve Mediterranean fare and local catch—like stone crabs from the Florida Keys—in an indoor-outdoor venue that takes advantage of Palm Beach’s fabulous year-round weather.
Institutions that have never ventured outside of New York continue to choose Palm Beach for their first out-of-state foray. Upper East Side restaurant Felice, known for its Tuscan-inspired cuisine, just opened in West Palm Beach’s mural-covered Rosemary Square in January 2023. Later this year, it will be joined by legendary FiDi steakhouse Harry’s, and its sister restaurant Adrienne’s Pizzabar, known for amping up Stone Street’s energy and power-lunch scene.
“We’re seeing restaurants come in that we’re not familiar with, and so for us to get a taste of New York without having to travel to New York—it’s exciting for us,” a local told Bloomberg last fall. “We’re chic, but we’re pink, and we’re not going to change that, but it gives us a bit of New York flair that we’re missing.”
As for those New Yorkers still searching for that perfect Palm Beach address, increased demand for full-time residences has spurred a new wave of luxury residential developments, like Panther National, with its ethos of “a lifestyle few experience,” and Olara, with its “suite of resort-inspired amenities and services.” They’ll have to sit tight to move in, though: Panther National isn’t due for completion til 2024 (though its Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course is expected to open later this year); Olara is looking at 2026.
While they wait, they’ll feel right at home at the storied Colony Hotel that’s welcomed a see-and-be-seen crowd from Jackie O to Frank Sinatra since 1947. Its owners recently revamped the Pink Paradise’s guest rooms and, in yet another New York art-scene connection, tapped contemporary Lower East Side gallery Voltz Clarke to curate both in-room artworks and rotating exhibits.
Only time will tell what Palm Beach’s new transplants will bring back to Manhattan en-route to their summer homes—in the Hamptons.